Rabbinic Plan for Drafting Chaplains is Announced; is Backed by Severe Sanctions

A draft program designed to insure a steady flow of Jewish chaplains to minister to Jews in the U.S. Armed Forces and to build up a reserve force of chaplains in the event of war was announced here today by Rabbi Aryeh lev, director of religious activities of the National Jewish Welfare Board, which is the government-recognized agency serving the religious needs of Jews in all branches of the armed forces.

The program, agreed upon by all rabbinical groups representing Orthodox, Reform and Conservative congregations, is backed by a program of severe sanctions. At present there are 37 full-time Jewish chaplains and 205 part-time chaplains serving throughout the world. At least 75 additional Jewish chaplains will be needed. During World War II there were 311 full-time Jewish chaplains in the armed forces and several times that number of part-time chaplains and lay assistants.

The rabbinical groups which drew up the draft program decided that younger rabbis, who were in the theological seminaries during World War II, should serve now. The plan divides all rabbis into two categories: men under 33 and men over 33. Under present conditions, men over 33 are not being considered. The other category is divided into the following classifications: 1. For single men; 2, for married men; 3, married with children; and 4, veterans. Thus far, men from groups one and two have been called by their respective rabbinical bodies and selected by lot.

The rabbinical groups have established appeals boards which are operating exactly as similar boards established for laymen, The rabbinical program provides that a drafted rabbi must get his old post back upon return from service, even if his agreement with the congregation has expired meanwhile. In addition, the National Jewish Welfare Board has urged all congregations whose rabbis have been drafted, to make up the difference between the chaplain’s army pay, usually that of a first lieutenant, and his civilian pay.

The sanctions which the rabbinical groups will impose on a rabbi who refuses to serve after being drafted are: 1. Young rabbis refusing to serve as chaplains will find it difficult or impossible to get new positions because of the moral stigma attached to their attitudes; 2. Congregations are informed if a rabbi refuses to serve. Because the sons of congregation members are drafted by the Federal Government, ill feeling is likely to develop against a rabbi who refuses to go. 3. In extreme cases, a rabbi is subject to expulsion from the rabbinical organizations to which he belongs.

Citations for “consecrated service” to interfaith goodwill were presented in absentia last night to three chaplains of the armed services at a dinner sponsored by the Chaplain Alexander D. Goode Lodge of B’nai B’rith. The citation winners, each of whom received a gold medal and a $500 cash award, are: Comdr. Robert M. Schwyhart of the Navy, Maj. Merritt O. Slawson of the Air Force, and Capt. Harman G. Gelhoelter of the Army.

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